First Solar's unfinished plant sold to NRG Solar

Agua Caliente Solar Farm isn’t yet complete, but already it’s seeing a change in ownership. NRG Energy, Inc. announced this week that through its wholly owned subsidiary, NRG Solar, the company has agreed to acquire the 250-megawatt (MW) Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz., from First Solar.

“NRG Energy has a long relationship with First Solar,” said David Knox, spokesperson for NRG Energy. “The Agua Caliente project is a nice fit for us, as we are trying to develop a vast and diverse portfolio of solar power in the Southwest U.S., and we like to partner with firms we know have the expertise and experience required.”

The Agua Caliente solar project is set for a 2014 completion and already has a 25-year power purchase agreement in place with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) out of California. Upon completion, Agua Caliente is expected to be the largest operational photovoltaic (PV) site in the world. The acquisition is contingent upon an $800 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Arizona is a key area of growth for NRG where our investment is creating local jobs and building infrastructure,” said Tom Doyle, president of NRG Solar. “This is a relationship that will benefit all Arizona residents for a very long time.”

The Agua Caliente project is expected to produce much more than just solar energy. State and local tax revenue, wages for up to 400 construction workers, and economic benefits for many local businesses are also expected.

When operating at full capacity, NRG estimates the 250 MW project will provide clean, zero-emission electricity for more than 225,000 homes.

The project is expected to offset approximately 5.5 million metric tons of CO2 over 25 years, the equivalent of taking over 40,000 cars off the road annually. Agua Caliente will generate electricity with no air emissions, no waste production and no water consumption, the last factor being especially critical to any Arizona operation.

“Solar power is critical to transitioning our nation to having a greater emphasis on large-scale clean energy technologies, and it is going to be projects of the scale of Agua Caliente that will help us achieve this ambitious goal,” said David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy in a statement. “This investment significantly increases our presence in the state and benefits the residents of Arizona while providing attractive returns to NRG’s stakeholders.”

Pictured: NRG Solar's Blythe solar plant, courtesy of NRG Energy.